Gaelicspirit (gaelicspirit) wrote,

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Stream of Consciousness-style review

Those of you who've known me for any length of time know that I'm a huge Star Wars fan. References to it in my Supernatural episode reviews and stories are plentiful and unapologetic. So it won't surprise you to learn that I forced (pun intended) the hubs to purchase tickets the moment they went on sale--two months prior to opening night.

We took our nine-year-old daughter with us on Friday the 18th and it was a toss-up who was more excited: me, a fan since I was her age, who has romanticized the original trilogy and lamented the (IMO) abysmal prequels, or my kiddo, who knows no other way than to love anything Star Wars related thanks to parental mental conditioning. It was the first time she had ever seen a Star Wars movie in a theater. The hubs was excited, too, but true to form, he was more excited that we were excited. All three of us were decked out in our Star Wars T-shirts and arrived in time to see Boba Fett, R2-D2, Leia, Padme, Darth Vader, and a Stormtrooper--and that was just in the lobby.

So, because I can never seem to fully experience something until I've written about it, I thought I'd offer those who care to read my thoughts, Stream of Consciousness-style. WARNING: This is spoiler-full and only for those who a) have seen the movie or b) don't care to be fully and completely spoiled about everything. Every. Thing.

I loved it. I loved everything about it. I loved the story and the new characters and the very un-CGI-looking effects and the humor and all of it. If I were to rank it right now after one viewing, it would go: Empire, Awakens, New Hope, Jedi, and then all the prequels lumped together in a bucket of "if I have to" at the end. But, to give it a true ranking I need to see it at least once more. Maybe twice. This year.

It brought Stars Wars alive again. Before I get to my lists, I need to talk about two things that don't fit into any of my categories: Han, and the plot.

First, let's just get past the Elephant in the Galaxy: it was not easy to see Han Solo get killed. It wasn't a death like any other I'd experienced in the Star Wars universe. Ben Kenobi vanished into the Force, no look of shocked pain, no last gasping breath. The only reason I really even felt his death at all was Luke's anguished, "NO!" in immediate reaction. Yoda was 900+ years old and basically sighed, then also vanished into the Force. Qui-Gon's death was a bit more visceral, but I was so emotionally detached from those movies that not even Ewan McGregor's young Obi-Wan's grief could make that mean much to me.

From a writer's room perspective, it's interesting to me that Harrison Ford had actually wanted Han to die at the end of Jedi. He felt that the smuggler's story had been told and it would be a hero's ending. I'm glad he was vetoed because the layers of story that Han was given post-Jedi were so rich. I also found it interesting that Lawrence Kasden directed Empire--which ended up freezing Han in Carbonite--and co-wrote Awakens, ultimately going where no Star Wars movie has gone before: killing one of the heroes. Not a hero we'd literally just met that movie, and not a hero that faded gently into that good night.

A hero so many of us had hung our hopes on, put our faith in, used to justify the realness of a story based in a galaxy far, far away.

Han Solo was the cowboy, the cynic, the grounding for the lightning that was the Force. He was the reason we could believe in something so mystical and impossible as a power that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. Watching him be won over by the earnest farmboy and stubborn princess then finally, grudgingly uttering the words, "May the Force be with you," as a good luck to Luke before he headed off on what was basically a suicide mission, gave us the permission we all needed to believe in it as well.

Creating Han Solo was one of the best things George Lucas ever did--he provided balance in the universe by inserting an Every Man into the mix. And therefore, from a storytelling perspective, killing Han was the perfect catalyst for kick-starting a new story with new heroes and a new Every Man. It was the perfect spark to incite rage and light fires of purpose in the characters and fans alike. It had to be someone we cared about, someone we knew. I don't know that it would have been such a blow had it been either of the Skywalker siblings because we need them in the Force to propell the story of the Jedi forward. Even Chewbacca wouldn't have struck us as hard. We had to lose Han to propell us into the new story.

As for Han's story, I loved that Chewie was still by his side 30 years later, his life-debt having turned into a brotherhood long before we ever met them. I love that Han and Leia has such a storied, stormy romance--she was still 'Organa', not 'Leia Organa Solo', so either she didn't take his name due to her royalty status, or they never married (which I think is more likely). They had a child together who was strong in the Force--and who, interestingly enough for multiple reasons, they named 'Ben'--and trusted Luke to guide and train him. But there is a weakness in the Skywalker gene, a lust for the kind of power promised by the Dark Side. So, like his grandfather Anakin Skywalker, Ben (Solo?) betrayed his uncle and slaughtered the rest of the Jedis in training, delivering a crushing blow to his parents.

Leia and Han--true to their own pasts--headed for their corners rather than pulling together to ride out the storm of their son's betrayal. Leia returned to leading people--eventually becoming a General in the Resistance, the modern-day Rebellion. Han returned to smuggling and being a pirate--proving what he'd said in various ways ever since we first met him in Mos Eisley: you can't take the sky from him. And they both assumed until it was almost too late that neither one wanted to hear from the other. Luke was no different: he became a hermit, just like Obi-Wan, hiding where the agents of the Dark and Light alike could not find him. Afraid of what his power had wrought in his nephew, and of what that power could do if in the wrong hands.

Thirty years had not been exactly kind to our heroes, but I liked that. I liked that Awakens showed without pace-slowing exposition that time and circumstance changes a person, altering them from those celebratory victors around the Ewok fire into aged, world-weary survivors. I liked that their stories showed they did the best they knew how to do. The greatest thing about these heroes (IMO) has always been their flaws and how they fight on despite the enormous curves the universe tosses at them. The way they always, always tried to do the right thing even if it was against impossible odds.

After all, Han never wanted to be told the odds.

Having Han try one last, impossible time to reach his son, to bring him back to the Light, was perfect. As was Ben's--Kylo Ren--complete betrayal. It left me with a perplexing conundrum of not knowing if I wanted our new heroes to avenge Han's death and kill Kylo Ren, or if I wanted them to finish what he tried to start and save Ben, returning him to the Light. That said, I loved that Chewie's first instinct was to shoot the bastard. My heart screamed as loud as that Wookie wail when Han tumbled from the walk-way. He'd always made it out before--from the Death Star, from Carbonite, from Endor. He'd always found a way to survive, and from a "he's a hero and must therefore never perish" perspective, watching that scene killed me.

But I loved what possibilities it generated for the rest of the story.

The other non-list-ish thing is the plot. I've seen the tweets and social media comments about Awakens being, basically, a reboot of New Hope. To that I say: so what? The prequels were rife with politics and boring as hell. There was so much CGI in the prequels the actors' performances (with a few minor exceptions) felt wooden and hollow because there was nothing for them to react to. We needed to buy in to this universe again. We needed the rag-tag group of rebels against a seemingly impossible dominating faction. We needed the epic space battles and the desperate escapes. It was the perfect way to kick-start a new storyline, establish the iconic character types we relate to, and grab us back from that free-float of I Want to Believe that 90% of us have been in since Sith.

Plus it gave us a new hope (no pun intended this time) for realism and humor and the hooks of humanity well-embedded in the story, just like had been in the original trilogy. The Jedi of the prequels were so serious about their peace that even when battling with lightsabers they looked a bit like they were fueled by Xanax. We needed Luke's sweaty, bloody, desperate lightsaber duel from Empire again. We needed the I'm making this up as I go along attitude Han had on Hoth and Endor. We needed a reason to hate the First Order as much as the Empire and we needed a reason to cheer for the Resistance as much as the Rebellion.

Well done, JJ, I say. Well done.

I'm putting everything else in my lists, though they will be a bit more, um, robust than my typical reviews.

Things I loved:

  • The overall look of everything. The aliens looked tangible, the landscapes plausible. Having the wrecked Star Destroyer and Walkers lying lost and forgotten in the sands of Jakku was a perfect touch. It immediately gave us a sense of significant time having passed since we last visited this universe and reminded us that the refuse of war--even in space--doesn't just vanish conveniently or float off into notingness. There were planets and people impacted by that war 30 years ago, even still today.

  • The low-to-ground battles. Space battles are cool, but watching Rey attempt to maneuver the Millennium Falcon through wreckage had me holding my breath--as well as Han coming in for a landing directly out of hyperspace. That was thrilling.

  • The old humor. Han and Chewie were Han and Chewie. All of their banter was perfect--which is actually kind of hilarious to say since the only one we can understand is Han, but it felt like banter.

  • --> "You're cold?!"

  • --> "I like this." {Han with that crossbow was hilarious--how had he not shot it before now?!}

  • --> Chewie picking up Han's coat and handing it to him.

  • The new humor. I adored Finn and his interaction with everyone. For me, he was the trigger point for so much of the other's humor (aside from Poe Dameron's initial interaction with Kylo Ren and that, "So, who talks first, do you talk first?" exchange). I especially loved the moment in the Millennium Falcon after they escaped and Rey and Finn met up in the center of the Falcon, both talking rapidly at the same time, totally pumped about each other's efforts in their escape. *BIG GRIN*

  • The new characters:

  • --> As I said, I loved Finn. I think he might be my favorite after the first viewing. I loved how he was brave enough to follow his gut and was our new Every Man in the whole, what the hell is happening here reactions to everything. I loved that he connected so fast with people: Poe, Rey, even Han. So many moments with him stand out for me--like convincing BB-8 to tell him the location of the Resistance and then exchanging a thumbs up, or telling Poe Dameron he's doing the right thing then admitting he needs a pilot, or not getting why Han was doing the chin-lift maneuver at first.

  • --> Rey was fantastic--a true hero for my kiddo to admire. In fact, there were several impressive female characters--from Rey to Leia to female X-Wing fighters to even a leader of the Stormtroopers. Rey was tough and yet emotional--her time alone on Jakku waiting for her family to return hadn't hardened her heart, it had strengthened her resolve. She was resourceful and smart and knew to trust her instincts. And I cannot WAIT to find out more of her story--I have my suspicions, which I'll share below.

  • --> I need more Poe Dameron in my life. I always liked Wedge Antilles; I want Poe to be the new Wedge for me, but with more of his story. He's cocky and tough and allows himself to connect with people. I loved the scene before the battle when he and Finn both realize the other is alive and literally run across the tarmac to embrace each other. That was awesome--showed how aware they are that each moment could literally be the last time they ever see one another and they felt that bond of friendship from their mutual hate of the First Order.

  • --> Kylo Ren was a decent bad guy, but he was young. He reminded me of Anakin a LOT. The almost foot-stomping anger, the whiney voice when things didn't go his way, the bursts of rage with his lightsaber cutting up everything in sight. Even killing his father was done out of manipulation of emotions. He has a long way to go until I think of him as an actual threat--but I kind of think that's the point. Because if he was an actual threat, there would be no choice but to kill him. I think we're supposed to perhaps be open to his being saved because he's Leia and Han's son, Luke's nephew. Plus I think that Snoak (or however it's spelled) is supposed to be the 'thing' we're really afraid of. Like the Emperor.

  • --> BB-8. I haven't liked a droid so much since R2-D2 gave C-3PO that side-long WTH are you talking about look when the Jawas had them on display. Especially when he tried to hide behind Han's legs on the freighter...thingy.

  • The story:

  • --> We knew the remnants of the Empire weren't going to just cry uncle because the Rebels blew up their 2nd Death Star. Evil is as evil does. There is always going to be that Darkness in the world. So, the First Order rose up, became all Nazi-like again so we could hate them, but they changed things up a bit, it seems. Instead of using clones for the Stormtroopers, they decided to steal babies from their homes and families and condition them into soldiers. Not sure why--maybe that's to come, or maybe it doesn't matter--but in Finn's case it was a big mistake because apparently you can't condition heart and instinct out of everyone.

  • --> So, we already covered that Ben went Dark Side and became Kylo Ren, Luke went into hiding, Han and Leia did their thing, and now we have the Resistance generating people like Poe Dameron. Finn couldn't kill helpless villagers and escapes what was apparently a hellish existence of control in the First Order. And then there's Rey--seemingly abandoned on Jakku, finding ways to survive, apparently feeling a sense of something that she doesn't realize is the Force until she gets mixed up in all this space travel and rebelling.

  • --> My prediction regarding Rey: she is Luke's daughter. When he freaked out about what Ben did to the other young Jedi, he left her on Jakku for her safety and ran away to that island (I'm actually wondering if she might have been on that island with him previously b/c Kylo Ren was able to pull images of an island and ocean from her mind). If I'm right, though...who was her mother and where is she now? Was she also on Jakku at one time? Did Leia and Han know about Rey? If they did, why didn't they go looking for her? So many questions.... I could be wrong, but she is definitely connected to the Skywalkers somehow, thus the whole weird flashback when she touched Luke's lightsaber and could call it to her hand without truly realizing what she was doing.

Not so much:

  • Edited for comprehension: What the heck was up with Phasma and her shiny stormtrooper suit? It seemed like they made a pretty big deal about who was playing her (IMO), so it seemed odd that she never removed her helmet. And if she was supposed to be this bad-ass stromtooper, how in the world was she able to be overpowered by a kid, an aging smuggler, and a wounded Wookie? Then tossed down a garbage chute? Felt like she was a bit under-used.

  • Rey's ability to suddenly use the Jedi Mind Trick without ever having seen it done before. I buy her being strong in the Force and that's why she was able to fly so awesome and do all those mechanical things like Luke was always able to. And I even buy her instinctively figuring out the tricks to the lightsaber--a lot of that could be written off to adrenalin and having watching others fight in different ways on Jakku. But the mind trick? *hand waves*

Burning Questions that will either be answered by more viewings...or by subsequent episodes:

  • Is Rey Luke's daughter? And if so...see questions above. *smiles*

  • Is Finn maybe connected to Lando? What is his full story--is he basically the new Han, in a way?

  • How did that one creature who ran the bar in the ancient ruins (need to see it again to get her name...was it Moz?) acquire Luke's lightsaber? She said it was an interesting story for another time--I'll bet, since the last time we saw it, it was connected to Luke's severed hand and falling out of the bottom of Cloud City.

  • Do I want Kylo Ren to be killed, or do I want him to become Ben again? --> Aside: I know the books that came after Jedi were to be discarded from this storyline, but I think it's interesting that in the books, Han and Leia had a child (Jacen) go Darkside and Luke had a son named Ben. Just...saying.

  • I'm confused about the deal with R2-D2. He was in "low power" mode since Luke left, and then just suddenly wakes up with the whole map except the piece that Poe and BB-8 acquired? Did he have the map the whole time? Did it download into him when the big planet thingy imploded? And what was his catalyst for waking up--Rey's arrival at the Resistance base? *puzzeled*

  • Why did C-3PO have a red arm? That was random. And has he been with Leia all this time?

It was truly an amazing experience for this life-long fan, and I would go so far as to say it was an entertaining movie in its own right--not just a good Star Wars movie--for those casual and/or non-fans who are looking to see what the big deal is. I will definitely be going to see it in the theaters again. And cannot wait for the next installment of stories in this universe.

Until then, may the Force be with you.
Tags: movie reviews, what do you think?
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